WORKS: Il terzo libro de madrigali
PERFORMER: La Venexiana
CATALOGUE NO: GCD 920903
These 20 madrigals represent the ultimate marriage of words and music. They engage in visual painting – melodies descending to death; in aural description – fast notes for flight; and in more arcane rhetorical conventions – a rising interval at a question, a harmonic side-step to suggest parting. The music alone is virtually meaningless without the text, provided in a necessarily inelegant but helpfully literal translation. It’s heightened further by La Venexiana’s ‘mobile’ beat, flexing pace to capture a single thought. In doing so, it varies sonority, too: at cadences, tuning is as richly focused as a barbershop ensemble; between, intense passion may create moments of musical confusion.
Renaissance courtiers revelled in suffering: the texts are anguished plaints of rejected lovers, rarely relieved by passion requited. So this is not a disc to hear straight through, any more than d’India’s book was intended for a single performance. Absorb the text, listen several times to its musical illumination, to savour d’India’s wayward harmonies (learnt from Gesualdo), and his synthesis of old counterpoint and, in the last eight madrigals, the new continuo-accompanied style of Monteverdi.
La Venexiana’s finely recorded six voices, two theorbos and harpsichord are peerless advocates of this pinnacle of amorous fervour. George Pratt